‘The noble soul has reverence for itself.’ Beyond Good and Evil
Welcome back. We’ve been talking about freeing yourself from the burden of worrying what other people think of you. Excessive concern with how others view us creates feelings of low status; it makes us feel judged, dependent, compromised and sometimes fake. It can even stymie our personal growth and inhibit the actualising of all our potential.
In our first post on this topic, we looked at step 1. understanding why you feel sh*t about yourself. Then in our last post, we began tackling step 2: feeling great about yourself. There is more to say on this second step and that’s what we will be doing in the next few posts.
We have already looked at continence (or self-control). This is a necessary pre-condition for any individual who wants to determine their own sense of personal value without having that excessive, perhaps even neurotic, concern with external validation. I argued that one needs to be able to rely on one’s self as a capable, dependable and effective individual. We achieve this self-reliance through successfully exercising power over ourselves. When you have control over yourself, you can rely on yourself and, consequently, you see your own value most clearly - without the need for the affirmation of others.
Closely related to Continence is self-reverence. For Nietzsche, the higher type of human being possesses a natural self-reverence - after all, they are their own standard of The Good. For those of us who have not yet achieved such a lofty status, a healthy sense of self-reverence is still possible and is, in fact, essential if we are to be independent individuals with a strong sense of self-worth. What we are talking about is simple self-respect – valuing one’s self – and to feel valued, we must treat ourselves as valuable. How should we go about this?
Firstly, one must take care of one’s self. If you abuse your body, or overlook its essential needs, how can you claim to be respecting yourself? Eat healthy food and embrace healthy habits. Contrary to the religious mythologies that still permeate our culture, your body is not some temporary vehicle in which your soul navigates through the world. It is you yourself in your entirety (read more about the Nietzschean understanding of the body in Body First and Strong).Treat yourself right. Spend time and money on decent grooming and a tasteful wardrobe. Observe little rituals such as bathing, cooking for yourself, making coffee. Be your own VIP. Care for your body as you would care for a developing child. Nourish it. Tend it. Nurture it.
But don’t think for a moment that we are merely coddling ourselves. The self-reverent individual is demanding of herself or himself. Your body is the principal tool for realising your own purposes and projects. Like any excellent craftsman, you must hone, maintain and upgrade your tool to get the best service from it.
This means lots of physical exercise. Become healthy, fit, strong, flexible, with stamina, poise, balance and even grace. And because adherence to a demanding exercise regime promotes self-discipline, determination and grit, it improves your mental health too.
On to a more controversial point perhaps: that the healthiest body tends to be the most beautiful body. Beauty is its own power, and feeling ugly makes us weak and vulnerable. Try this simple exercise. Stand naked in front of a mirror and ask yourself if you are happy with what you see. Use a second mirror to see your self from other angles. Be brutally honest with yourself. There is no room here for idealistic and empty self-affirmations. Having made your honest appraisal decide if action is necessary. That which we can change, we should change. That which we cannot change, we should accept unashamedly. If you are genuinely happy with your body just as you are - lucky you.
Few of us are super-model material and we are all influenced to one degree or another by the unrealistic body image aspirations that society imposes on us. Conversely, the idea that it is ‘okay’ to be out of shape is plain dangerous. Not only is it unhealthy, physiologically speaking, it is also doubtful that many of us truly ‘love’ and ‘accept’ our out-of-shape selves. The culture of mindless ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’ self-acceptance is a sure fire way to make a lot of people very miserable whilst encouraging them to kid themselves that they are fine.
What you should be aiming for is to be able to stand naked in front of that mirror and feel impressed with what you see. Not because you approximate to some advertiser’s idea of what human perfection looks like, but because you are in control of yourself and you have made your body strong – whatever that means to you. Of course, there is the danger that some take this too far, but then we have left the dominion of self-reverence and entered the mire of self-loathing.
So the foundation of self-reverence is to cherish your body, respect it and learn to be proud of it. Love it, but do not shy from the toughest love.
Next post: Step 2 continued. The Beast Inside!
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